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Elderly visitor fined $170K | Over $577K forfeited to territory

Accused visitor Arturo Basantes of Ecuador.

The elderly Ecuadorian visitor held with more than half-a-million in cash at the TB Lettsome International Airport last month has lost that money to the territory and will also have to pay a massive $170,000 fine for failing to declare the funds to Customs.

Seventy-two-year-old Arturo Basantes was slapped with the fine on Tuesday during his sentencing hearing in the Magistrate’s Court.

Basantes, who was also convicted of engagement in smuggling, was given an 18-month custodial sentence which was suspended for a period of 18 months.

That effectively means the senior citizen will only spend 18 months in prison if he commits another offence in the next 18 months.

The court also slapped the offender with an eight-month suspended sentence for possession of proceeds of criminal conduct. That sentence was also suspended for 18 months.

Basantes was also charged with having $370 worth of counterfeit cash but that matter was discontinued.

Magistrate Giselle Jackman-Lumy said the sentences were decided while considering that the offender was elderly with poor health, he cooperated with local authorities, and he pleaded guilty at an ‘early stage’.

She said it also appeared that the elderly man acted alone.

Upon hearing the news, Basantes, who will remain in state custody until the fines are paid, told the court: “Thank you [and] God bless you.”

What happened

Basantes was caught carrying $577,830 in two suitcases and laptop bag on July 26. Among the cash were 18 counterfeit $20 bills and one fake $10.

He had arrived into the British Virgin Islands the day before.

That sum is more than fifty times the $10,000 legal amount allowed to a single traveller.

Basantes who resides in the US claimed to be a businessman and said the cash was to purchase a vessel in the territory.

While passing through the security checkpoint, authorities became suspicious when images of what appeared to be a ‘large’ quantity of cash in his laptop bag.

They then searched his luggage where a lot more cash in clear vacuum-sealed bags were found.

Defence attorney Stephen Daniels represented the offender.

Copyright 2018 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

30 Comments

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  1. NATall says:

    led the old man go ,go look for the young heartless boys,you u taking the money him from him is stealing too !!

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    • You people says:

      @NATall you and your sick criminal culture are a cancer to these islands.

      This guy was clearly committing a pre-meditated crime but because he puts on the little old man routine, he gets a fine (like criminals carrying that amount of cash can’t get more… that’s no deterrent) and gets off. The only blessing for the VI is that there was enough vigilance to catch him and that we aren’t feeding and housing him up Balo for long on our dime.

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  2. Wow says:

    Man this is beyond low.. all along the motive was to take the man money

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    • Really?! says:

      That’s the law, if the Money was legit as he said & he was going to purchase a boat all he had to do was declare it to Customs and all of this could have been avoided. He choose not the follow the law & there are consequences…

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      • Anonymous says:

        If he declared the money the government would have taken it anyway. Is all the money wired into the illegal offshore accounts declared as well. Double standard. The government just decided in the kangaroo court to not only take the money he brought but make him pay another $170k. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Third world toilet bowl

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    • L says:

      Try the same thing in the USA. They would take your money, through you un Federal prison, then deport you.

  3. lord says:

    ayo killed the poor old man

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  4. OMG says:

    THATS UNFAIR FOR HE DID NOT STEAL THE MONEY

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    • @OMG says:

      How do YOU know that he didn’t steel it. You come one day with 500K in cash to buy a boat and leave next day. Who buying a boat in 24 hours and then leave again stuups

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  5. Ivon says:

    After seizing the man’s half-a-mil, a fine like that is way too much. Where is the Governor to overturn this injustice?

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  6. see now says:

    These are the type of things that breeds terrorism

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  7. As we all know says:

    The territory is broke so any money they can get their hands on now is ok with them for the CDB not releasing them any funds, the UK only approved loan guarantees so any cash they can get they will pounce on

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  8. Very unfair says:

    Don’t worry the world is a cycle: another disaster will strike this wicked place for the wutlessness!

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    • Hmmmm says:

      Oh and what you are hoping for is fair for all the innocent people who have nothing to do with this case nor is aware of this man and his money? You need to check yourself man. Father in the name of Jesus protect these islands and this fool who needs to be saved from him or herself. Amen!!!

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  9. well meh boi says:

    The man arrived at beef island….He wasn’t leaving with money.. My god! we are behaving like cannibals.. How could we take the man’s money like so?

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    • @well meh boy says:

      Pls read it again. He was caught going throught security, and because of money in his lap top bag. Then they searched his 2 bags. It also said: He arrived the day before. The story is clearly written

    • Think says:

      He THANKED the Magistrate? This is not the action of an old man with legit life savings… He clearly feels he got away with something.

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      • maybe says:

        maybe he knows the law is not on his side, whether the money was rightfully his or not, he knows he did not declare it.

        maybe he is thankful for the suspended sentence.

        no one wants to be uncomfortable in jail in their golden years. He is so up in age he probably values his time over the money.

  10. Bull Dawg says:

    The law is the law.
    If he gets away, then we will open doors for smuggling.
    Did he give a name of the person he was going to purchase the vessel from?
    No.
    So therefore he was a suspicious character who finally got caught.

    • Lawyer says:

      The law is not the law. Prosecutors have huge discretion on how they charge crimes. Deals are made and approved by judges all the time. Different results for different folks depending on who you know and how much you got. Way worse in the BVI than the USA. This old fool was an unwitting mule for someone else trying to bring cash into the BVI. He spent a month in jail and of course he was thankful when he got out. He doesn’t even remember why he was there.

  11. ??? says:

    Damn that’s cold blooded. A $170,000 fine OR keeping his cash would have been sufficient. But confescating the cash ($500K) and still $170,000 fine on top of that?? On a 70 year old man? That’s a bit excessive.

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  12. Curious says:

    So what happens the half million in jewelery that was also being smuggled out by one of the jewelry stores !! Should that be taken for the territory and the same fine imposed ??

    • @curious says:

      So then report that anonymously to the FIA on a suspicious activity report form. Don’t just stick to inuendo on a news site. It is your civic duty (even though that concept might be lost on so many people)

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      • maybe says:

        maybe some persons have their own sense of duty. which includes staying out of “oh this person got away, while this one didn’t”

        @@curious. Now that you know, it lands on you to report this suspicious activity as per your own well developed sense of civic duty.

  13. Yasuh says:

    Too bad security didn’t catch the $7.2 million walking out of the country.

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